Carol Burnett: The Special Years

What sounds like a powerhouse concept fizzles in this hourlong compilation of moments from Carol Burnett's spex dating back to 1962. It's hard to believe that what's been selected are the high points of these encounters with talents on the order of Julie Andrews, Lucille Ball, Robin Williams, Dolly Parton and Beverly Sills. Vintage clips don't even show the host at her usual high comic level.

With:
Host: Carol Burnett.

What sounds like a powerhouse concept fizzles in this hourlong compilation of moments from Carol Burnett’s spex dating back to 1962. It’s hard to believe that what’s been selected are the high points of these encounters with talents on the order of Julie Andrews, Lucille Ball, Robin Williams, Dolly Parton and Beverly Sills. Vintage clips don’t even show the host at her usual high comic level.

Spec begins with Burnett singing a seemingly interminable new song about how she can’t make it without her friends, and then proceeds to display those friends in what’s generally a less than flattering light.

Standing in front of a recently taped live audience and waving aTV remote control unit like a professor with a pointer, Burnett displays slices of vintage material — no song or sketch complete — while commenting on them.

Burnett’s remarks form the most interesting moments, as she relates backstage anecdotes (Andrews was “10-minutes pregnant” in one sketch, because her husband had been with her in her dressing room just before, “wishing her good luck”) and lightly mocking her own constantly varying hair and makeup.

High points from the dusty-old videotapes and kinescopes include a “Sound of Music” parody with Andrews (shot, we’re told, before Andrews was cast in the film); and a montage of the written and improvised versions of a bit with Williams.

Low points include song snippets with Carl Reiner and Parton, though Burnett and Robert Preston’s attempts to sing “Row, Row Your Boat” as a round are fitfully amusing.

If this is what she comes up with for sweeps, maybe Burnett’s saving the best moments for homevideo.

Carol Burnett: The Special Years

(Fri. (20), 10-11 p.m., CBS)

Production: Videotaped in Los Angeles by Kalola Prods. in association with Brillstein-Grey Entertainment. Executive producers, Bernie Brillstein, Carol Burnett; producer, Robert Wright; Mitzi Welch, Ken Welch; associate producer, Steven Schott; director, Paul Miller; script, Mitzi Welch, Ken Welch; lighting director, Tim Sheldon.

Crew: Editors, Evan Wright, Robert Bernstein; production design , Roy Christopher; art director, Chris Idoine; sound, Otto Svoboda; music, Peter Matz.

Cast: Host: Carol Burnett.With: Julie Andrews, Lucille Ball, Placido Domingo, Whoopi Goldberg, Dolly Parton, Zero Mostel, Robert Preston, Carl Reiner, Beverly Sills and Robin Williams.

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